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Epilepsy in the Classroom: Dealing with Seizures

written by: Anne Vize • edited by: Lamar Stonecypher • updated: 1/5/2012

Ever wondered how to manage a situation where a student has an epileptic seizure in the classroom? How about when you are out on school excursion? This article covers practical tips for managing epilepsy and epileptic seizures in a special education setting.

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    It is one thing to learn about epilepsy and seizure management as part of your special education training. It is quite another to see an epileptic seizure for the first time when you realise that all of a sudden it is you who is in charge and must take action to effectively manage the situation. How you do this will depend to a large extent on the needs of the student, what has been documented in their IEP or epilepsy management plan, and what sort of epileptic seizure they are having. There is more information about epilepsy seizure types in this Bright Hub article.

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    Tips for Dealing with Seizures

    Here are some tips to get you through managing an epileptic seizure in a student in your care:

    1. Remain calm -- if you panic, this will often spread to your other students and you will find yourself not only managing a seizure, but also managing the emotional needs of a group of distressed students.

    2. Think step-by-step -- take yourself mentally through what you know about the situation already (the student, their epilepsy needs, the action plan that would already be documented for the student in many cases).

    3. Look for help -- in a school there will generally be other staff around who can help when needed. This might be bringing a blanket to cover a student who has wet themselves during a seizure (thus protecting their dignity and privacy needs) or calling an ambulance if the situation is beyond your skills or is required according to the situation. Out in public, there will usually be a crowd of people who gather at a medical situation such as a seizure - explain clearly what is happening and then choose someone who looks calm and reliable and give them clear instructions about what you need (keep other people out of the way, call for someone to help, ring an ambulance, move a piece of furniture away from the student so they are not injured).

    4. Act -- remember there are some simple things to do to keep the student safe (move hard objects away, protect their airways etc) and make them comfortable after a seizure has passed; although you can't really do anything at all to stop the seizure while it is occurring.

    5. Document -- after the seizure has been managed, remember to document what happened and what actions you took (note the time the seizure started and stopped, any problems or observations you think are important, and what you did during and after the seizure).

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    Difficult Situations

    Sometimes students may have a second seizure closely after the first, or they may have a seizure which lasts for an extended period. In both these cases, you may require outside support from medical staff (perhaps through a nurse, doctor or ambulance depending on the situation and where you are, as well as what is written in the IEP or action plan). Calling for an ambulance may also be needed if the student has injured themselves (such as a fall that causes them to hit their head) or if they are having a seizure for the first time (to the best of your knowledge).

    One of your best strategies for dealing with difficult situations is to increase your own knowledge -- find out how best to deal with each students' needs as individuals and learn about local services and organisations that can increase your own skills and knowledge. There is more information in this Bright Hub article about epilepsy in children.